27th Jan2015

SNP settle for time-limited, no-strings-attached fracking moratorium, while Labour MPs force real government U-turn

by TH

FrackingThe government was forced into a significant U-turn on fracking after giving in to Labour pressure on the Infrastructure Bill in the House of Commons last night.

It has been forced to put into law conditions to ensure that no extraction can take place until the regulations are overhauled.

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris said: “Labour proposed an amendment to stop fracking unless a series of tough conditions are first met. At the last minute, and knowing that they were about to be defeated by Labour and their own backbenchers, the government accepted Labour’s amendment. This now means these robust regulatory conditions and protections are now in the Bill, and if it receives Royal Assent will become law.

“This is a significant defeat for the government, and stops the irresponsible approach the Tories had been taking to shale gas, and the focus will now be on ensuring that the landscape, water supplies and communities are given stronger protections and standards to be met. Labour has argued since March 2012 that fracking can only go ahead with robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and local consent.

“This is also a more comprehensive and responsible approach than our opponents in the SNP, who voted for a simple time-limited moratorium with no conditions attached. Their approach is clearly all about quick press releases and soundbites, not about making a real difference in people’s lives.

“Provisions within our amendment was supported by a number of bodies, including the National Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Local Government Association, Unite and GMB trade unions.

“In Scotland, the Scottish government already has responsibility for planning and environmental permitting. This gives the Scottish government an effective veto of any activity in Scotland, although they have yet to confirm how – or if – they intend to use their powers in relation to fracking developments in Scotland. Separately, having accepted a Labour amendment, there will be no changes to rights to underground access in Scotland unless the Scottish government chooses to make them. This power, in line with the Smith Agreement, has now effectively been devolved.

“Scottish Labour have set out our policy in Scotland, which includes a triple lock of a tough baseline study, learning from fracking experience elsewhere in the UK, and a final, conclusive, vote of local communities to endorse any application granted permission for fracking. It is now up to the Scottish government to set out their approach to using their powers on this matter in Scotland.”

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14th Jan2015

Harris speaks up for Saudi blogger

by TH

Raif Badawi

Tom Harris today brought the case of the Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi to David Cameron’s attention during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Glasgow South MP appealed to the Prime Minister to condemn the “barbaric and medieval” regime for imposing a sentence of 1000 lashes – to be administered at 50 per week during 20 weekly sessions – and 10 years in prison.

“Does he agree that our international alliances should be built more on human rights and less on economic muscle?” he asked Mr Cameron.

The Prime Minister’s answer, unfortunately, was disappointing: he seemed to suggest the government would only make representations to the Saudi government if Mr Badawi were a British citizen, which he isn’t.

Tom said later: “This is an appalling case which highlights just how backward the state of Saudi Arabia is. And it is hypocritical, to say the least, for Saudi government officials to condemn the slaughter of Charlie Hebdo writers and staff, while insisting that this kind of barbaric treatment can be meted out to any of its citizens who dare to express views which are not government sanctioned.”

 

Watch Tom’s question to the Prime Minister here.

Read more about Raif Badawi here.

Sign the petition for his release here.

 

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17th Dec2014

The battle to scrap the Bedroom Tax

by TH

New Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, today led his MPs through the lobbies in an attempt to abolish the hated Bedroom Tax.

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris joined Jim and parliamentary colleagues from across the country in a bid to persuade the government to scrap the tax, which Tom described as “the most hated tax since the poll tax.”

‘Unfortunately, despite winning the argument, and despite the posturing of LibDem MPs, we were once again defeated in the lobbies,” said Tom. “But the next Labour government will prioritise scrapping this dreadful measure.”

bedroom tax

Scottish Labour MPs with new Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, following the vote in the House of Commons. Tom is at the back, third from the left, his face partly obscured by Michael McCann’s big baw face

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26th Nov2014

Harris backs Murphy on income tax devolution

by TH

murphyGlasgow South MP Tom Harris has welcomed Jim Murphy’s announcement that Scottish Labour should devolve 100 per cent of income tax to the Scottish Parliament.

Murphy, the East Renfrewshire MP vying to become Scottish Labour’s new leader, made the comments during a speech in Glasgow yesterday. Murphy also challenged the SNP to match his commitment to use the new tax powers to levy a 50 per cent tax rate on Scots earning more than £150,000 annually.

Tom said: “There is absolutely no point in demanding new powers for their own sake. The only reason new powers for Holyrood should be sought is in order to use them. Jim Murphy has promised he will do just that. Now it’s time for the SNP to follow his lead.

“So far, the SNP’s only tax commitment has been to cut corporation tax, saving wealthy business owners millions. Will they now match their talk on ‘social justice’ with real action, and pledge to raise the top rate of tax?”

Tom acknowledged that there were some in Scotland who have previously opposed full devolution of income tax, but appealed to them to back it as part of efforts to heal the rifts caused by the divisive and heated referendum campaign:

“Whatever the views of nationalist activists, the majority of those who voted Yes are democrats who, however reluctantly, accept the democratic will of the Scottish people. It is now incumbent on those who supported the No campaign to acknowledge that position and perhaps to reciprocate by moving to a position a majority of Scots can live with.”

Tom was one of a number of parliamentarians who nominated Jim Murphy for the position of Scottish leader. His local constituency parties, Glasgow Cathcart and Glasgow Southside subsequently gave supporting nominations to him.

 

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09th Nov2014

Remembering the fallen, honouring the living

by TH

Veterans in Britain’s armed forces were honoured at a special Remembrance Day event at Cathcart Old Parish Church this morning.

Local MP Tom Harris was invited to present Veteran’s Badges to a number of patrons of the church’s Coming Home Centre, set up to provide support services to those who have served in the nation’s military.

The presentations took place during the church’s annual Remembrance Day service at which Tom also laid a wreath on behalf of the House of Commons.

Tom told the congregation: “Since the Veteran’s Badge was launched, I’ve had the privilege of presenting it to many ex-service men and women from this constituency. It is a particular honour to be asked to do so duiring theis special Remembrance Day event.

“The badge, like its recipients, is modest, dignified and important. It should be worn with pride.”

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08th Nov2014

Tom’s feline fine…

by TH

Tom Harris has offered some moral support to a local charity working to protect and re-home cats.

Glasgow-based charity Catflap was holding a fund-raising coffee afternoon at Shawlands Kirk and invited Tom, the local MP, to pop in.

Tom said: “Catflap does a terrific job looking after and rehosiing stray cats, making sure they go to good homes where they will be loved. In the last year alone the charity has rehomed nearly 3700 cats, for which they should be congratulated.”

Some cats are more difficult to re-house than others, Tom was told...

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05th Nov2014

The case for bus regulation

by TH

Tom Harris MP is envious of his English colleagues, he has told the House of Commons, because they have the prospect of improved bus services within their grasp. In Scotland, Ministers at Holyrood remain resolutely opposed to any form of even the lightest regulation of our buses.

The Glasgow South MP, a former transport minister, was speaking during a House of Commons debate on the future of bus services in England. Bus passenger numbers throughout the UK have plummeted since the then Conservative government deregulated the industry in 1986. The only exception was London, which was never deregulated and which has seen a healthy growth in passenger services over the last 30 years.

The Labour Party has pledged to give local authorities in England the power to regulate bus services to guarantee stability of services and to ensure that socially-necessary routes – which are frequently abandoned by private bus companies if they don’t produce a profit – receive a quality service.

He told MPs:

I stand here envious of my English colleagues. We have the prospect of a Labour Government next May, and of regulated bus services throughout England. If only that were the case in Scotland. Successive Scottish Executives, led by the Labour Party and now by the Scottish National Party, have refused to re-regulate the buses. In Scotland, for some reason, SNP Ministers do not want to introduce regulation. I cannot imagine why.

What is it about the anti-regulation arguments of multi-million pounds SNP donor Brian Souter that Scottish Ministers find so persuasive?

I hope the example the next Labour Government will produce will cause Ministers in Scotland of whatever political colour to change their minds.

Read Tom’s speech here. Watch the video of his speech below.

 

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23rd Sep2014

A new hope for south side young people

by TH

NJC founder Jim McColl

Newlands Junior College came a step closer today as founder Jim McColl predicted a rewarding future for the kind of young people who may have been let down by the existing education system.

(more…)

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